Constructive Conversations: Getting the most out of communicating with your child’s teacher
The start of a school year usually means the start of ongoing conversations about children between school staff, particularly classroom teachers, and parents. Early on the process of teachers and parents getting to know one another focuses on general descriptions of classroom experiences, curriculum and expectations for learning. As the year moves on, more focus is given to understanding the learning of each child as an individual and the support teachers and parents can contribute.
Most likely your child’s teacher has set up various formats for having discussions about your child (formal and informal parent/teacher conferences, pickup/drop off time chats, exchanging written notes). Insuring meaningful conversations depends not only on how the teacher structures these opportunities but on your expectations and preparation for constructive communication. Fall conference days are generally scheduled and have set time limits, so your preparation and setting expectations is especially important. Here are a few tips to get you started:
· Prepare some written reminders of priorities for the conversation based on conversations with your child and your observations about your child’s learning (strengths/successes and well as challenges / concerns). What questions do you most want answered during this conference?
· Ask for clarification about educational jargon/labels (such as types of assessments and their outcomes) and words used to describe your child. “Would you explain that further?” or ”Would you give me a specific example as it relates to my child?” Be prepared to give specific examples for your comments as well.
· Ask for specifics to move from suggestions to action and available resources.
· Some discussion points may need a follow up conversation after conference time. Be clear that you expect this to happen and set up a time and means for this to take place.
Keep in mind that these tips work well in communicating with pediatricians, child care providers and others who benefit from getting to know you and your child.